Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.
Mathieu van der Poel broke the legs of world champion Nino Schurter in one searing 10-second attack on the last lap of Nové Mesto to win his first World Cup cross country race.
The race was defined by van der Poel’s tight battle with Schurter, the reigning world champion. The two came into the final of seven laps together, with a healthy gap to Mathias Flückiger in third. The race looked set for a sprint finish until van der Poel hit out on a small kicker of a climb three quarters of the way through the final lap. Schurter couldn’t match the acceleration.
“I had the point in mind already two laps before,” van der Poel said of his chosen attack point. “I think for me that was the best climb I can have, I just went all in. I’m really happy to finally take that World Cup win.
“For me it’s one of the biggest achievements,” van der Poel said. “For me, winning a World Cup in mountain bikes is one of the toughest things I can do. I’ve been trying for 3 years now.
It was the first victory for a Dutchman in a cross country World Cup since Bart Brentjens in 2006.
Van der Poel now sits 200 points ahead of Flückiger in the World Cup standings, but will miss the upcoming World Cups. The battle for the overall is wide open.
Schurter traded pulls with van der Poel throughout the day, and made a few small moves over the last three laps. But he couldn’t escape.
“It was a tough one,” Schurter said. “I felt pretty good, was in a pretty good situation with Mathieu in the front. I tried to break him over the last three laps. He was just too strong today. His last attack I had no chance to follow him. I’m quite happy with second, I think it was the best possible result today.”
Van der Poel, who is 24 years old, won the cyclocross world title in February, then turned around and hit the classics. He was fourth at the Tour of Flanders, won Dwars door Vlaanderen, Brabantse-Pijl, and then capped it all with a victory at Amstel Gold with one of the most impressive displays of strength the sport has seen in some time.
Van der Poel will now take a break from the World Cup circuit. He plans to continue his multi-discipline seasons through the Tokyo Olympics in 2020, where he will race in the cross country event. He earned his ticket to Tokyo last week at the Albstadt World Cup.
He recently told Het Nieuwsblad that he’d like to race a grand tour shortly after Tokyo.
“I really want to ride one,” he said, referring to grand tours. “When? It might come soon after Tokyo.”
“The Tour de France remains the largest and for me the easiest I think,” he added. “In the Giro and Vuelta there is even more climbing and that is the least appealing to me now.”
Feature images shows Mathieu van der Poel in last week’s World Cup XCO in Albstadt where he came in 2nd.